Conference Panels and Workshops

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Panel 1 - Definitions of Neurodiversity

Panel 2 - The Learner and Whānau Experience

Workshop 1

Workshop 2

Panel 1- Definitions of Neurodiversity
Wednesday, 15 June, 10:45am

Dr Karen Waldie

Dr Karen Waldie is currently a Professor in the School of Psychology and a Principal Investigator with the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. Her involvement with national longitudinal studies (Dunedin Study, Auckland Birthweight Collaborative Study, Growing Up in NZ) reflects her interest in life-span development as well as the precursors and determinants of neurodevelopmental disorders. She is a member of numerous professional societies and has published over 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

She is currently leading a large fMRI study to determine the neural basis of dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Sara Williams

Sara Williams is a Principal Advisor in the Tertiary Education Commissions Learner Success Ōritetanga team. With a focus on improving outcomes for underserved learners, the Commission is working to achieve system transformation by supporting tertiary organisations to put the learner at the centre of every decision they make. Sara’s work focuses in on helping organisations understand and enable the learner groups they deliver to – covering disabled and neurodiverse learners, care-experienced learners, learners with refugee backgrounds and rainbow learners.  
 

Naomi Saluni Tavau

(Samoan/Tongan)
Mother (Vaipou Saluni nee Auva’a) from the villages of Tiavea, Saleaaumua, Sapapali’i. Father (Sione Saluni) from Fasito’o Uta, Tanugamanono, Samusu and Leimatu’a, Vava’u. Married to Tuifaasisina Tusa Tavau Misikau (Tuvalu/Samoan) with one son Sione. Naomi wears many hats. She is a social entrepreneur, executive director, project and communications manager, sustainable investor, Adult Literacy & Numeracy educator and is involved in NFP Governance.

Through her extensive career working in community, adult education, central government and private sectors she has lived experience and is able to identify gaps and opportunities for the use of Pasifika culture and values as a tool for learning and empowerment.   Promoting sustainable business models for communities.

Naomi founded Lavea’i Trust Inc delivering adult education community courses in partnership with polytechnics, was a founding member of the Puataunofo Come Home Safely programme,  co-founded and is Executive Director for Failoa Famili Trust which provides hope and motivation to help Pasifika youth, families and communities to be more self-sufficient and resilient.
 

Panel 2 The Learner and Whānau Experience
Thursday, 16 June, 9 am

Jan Wigmore – Parent

Jan is a consulting Information Architect.  She and her husband Andrew, a primary school principal, have three children. Their youngest son Max (16) has Auditory Processing Disorder and Severe Expressive Language Disorder.

Jan has researched and used a range of  neuroplastic programmes both at home and at primary school to improve Max's ability to understand sound and improve his ability to speak and communicate. She will share her personal learning journey and approaches that have worked particularly well for Max.

Nigel Sutton Living with ADHD – It’s My life, The Answer, The Key

Self-diagnosing ADHD from Tik Tok last September was an intense and confounding process of realisation. Quickly discovering that wait times to see psychologists and psychiatrists were around one year plus across New Zealand, I was very frustrated. (I have the more hyperactive type ADHD and so being patient is not easy). I used my “superpower of hyper-focus” to work out how to get seen and diagnosed much sooner. Formally diagnosed three months at the age of 50, I finally had the key, the answer, to my entire life. It turns out, it is me! I really do see and process the world differently.

I am the Director of Community Education at Wellington High School and the President of Community Learning Association through Schools (CLASS). I hold four degrees from Victoria University and I am a qualified chef and Project Manager. I am also neurodiverse and live with ADHD, Irelen’s Syndrome and Misophonia. I will weave together some key traits of neurodiversity with how you might recognise and best support your neurodiverse learners and kaiako.

Ali & Nikau Cowley

Ali Cowley is an artist, animator and film maker. He is of Samoan heritage and his parents are originally from the Island of Upolo. Ali has over twenty years experience of video making, animation and short film. He was an animation director on prime time animated show Bro’Town for four seasons and is currently working as an art tutor at Media Design School in the Gaming Department.

In 2019 Ali created a documentary called Meet Munch Jr to celebrate his relationship with his nineteen year old son Nikau and dispel many of the myths which exist around Autism. The short film documents Nikau’s creative journey through puppetry.

Ali is a member of Pasifika Autism Group Support which provides support and resources for families. The group promotes conversations around diversity, inclusion and bright futures for everyone.

Workshop 1: Wednesday 15 June, 1:15 – 2:30 pm

The Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark - Te Tohu Kounga Whakarata Tīpaopaotanga 

Annette Tofaeono, Chris Cole, Bruce George
Annette Tofaeono is Senior Advisor Foundation Learning and DFQM Facilitator at Ako Aotearoa.
She is passionate about education and contributing to meaningful change in society. Annette has worked as a Literacy and Numeracy Subject Matter Expert and has conducted research and developed a qualification in literacy difficulties. She advocates for better meeting the needs of our underserved learners, inclusivity and using educational approaches that are strengths-based to maximise the potential of our educators and our learners.

Chris Cole is a DFQM Facilitator at Ako Aotearoa. She is a dyslexic dyslexia campaigner following the belief that “awareness creates change.” For over 10 years, she has worked in parent and educator training and support, adult and peer support initiatives, developing and running dyslexic children’s workshops, and as a dyslexia life coach. This work is through her role as Senior Advisor for Learning Differences Aotearoa Trust, business owner of Unique Minds and as a DFQM facilitator for Ako Aotearoa.

Bruce George is National Curriculum Manager at Literacy Aotearoa. He was born in Rotorua and his parents are from Atiu and Rarotonga. For 30 years Bruce has worked in Adult Literacy and Education with a focus on praxis that empowers Māori and Pasifika people. His own literacy learning difficulties and discovery later in life that he is dyslexic have given him a passion for Adult Literacy theory and practice and empathy for adult learners.

Bruce has tutored, trained, and lectured at Private Training Establishments, Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi Whakatane, Massey University Albany, Auckland University of Technology, Ako Aotearoa and Literacy Aotearoa as well as tutoring in prison and workplace environments. He would love to see inclusive educational practices that acknowledge neurodiversity so that no one is left behind. He has a love for Anau, culture and arts.

Annette, Chris and Bruce are excited to introduce the Dyslexia-Friendly Quality Mark (DFQM), the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere. Commissioned by the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and developed by Ako Aotearoa, the DFQM was established to instigate positive change in adult education settings for learners with dyslexia. It was launched in September 2021 after a successful pilot.

In their workshop they will outline how the DFQM supports organisations to take a strategic approach to building an inclusive learning environment. The interactive session will provide insight into the DFQM process, the steps to achieving it and what gaining the DFQM would mean for your organisation. You will experience how it feels to be a learner with dyslexia and hear first-hand about an organisation's DFQM journey and experience. The philosophy is that small changes in practice to accommodate learners with dyslexia are likely to lead to greater levels of success for all. The DFQM is a critical kaupapa that raises capability and awareness. It provides an opportunity to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives and stimulate positive societal change.

Using Brain Imaging to Inform our Understanding of Neurodiversity

Dr Karen E Waldie is currently a Professor in the School of Psychology and a Principal Investigator with the Centre for Brain Research at the University of Auckland. She was born and educated in Canada and became a member of the University of Auckland academic faculty in 2001 after falling in love with New Zealand.

Karen’s research interests can be broadly categorised into those that rely on acute cross-sectional experimental techniques, and those which rely on data collected from longitudinal studies. Her experimental work combines techniques from cognitive neuroscience (e.g., functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) and electroencephalography (EEG)) and clinical neuropsychology. She is currently leading a large fMRI study to determine the neural basis of dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Her involvement with national longitudinal studies (Dunedin Study, Auckland Birthweight Collaborative Study, Growing Up in NZ) reflects her interest in life-span development as well as the precursors and determinants of neurodevelopmental disorders. She is a member of numerous professional societies and has published over 160 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.

Karen will present her brain-imaging research with neurodiverse people, with focus on people with reading and/or attention difficulties. She will invite everyone to discuss the implications of these findings for education.
 

Neurodiversity in Aged Care – Marianne Kerridge & Libby Wycherley

A background in computer graphics has created a foundation for Marianne Kerridge in her role as a Diversional Therapist in Aged Care. She creates displays that stimulate conversations, uses photography for reminiscing and developing resident-initiated activities that reflect the older person is still keen to learn.

Marianne’s colleague Libby Wycherly had a thirty year career in teaching children with additional needs before retiring to care for her partner who developed vascular dementia. Through her role as support for her partner and his eventual shift into residential care, Libby gained a new insight into ways to make the most of the changes in the aging brain and how to enjoy each moment with her partner. She has been able to use these skills in her role as Diversional Therapist at Te Hopai Home and Hospital where she has worked for the past seven years.

Libby and Marianne will talk about authentic ways to engage with people in the aged care environment - the importance of the assessment process and how to connect with people though their specific enthusiasms and passions. Their highly creative, person centered, individualised programmes allow for each person to continue their learning journey and to stay connected with their communities and the wider world. 

They will also explain their cognitive stimulation therapy sessions and reflect on how the team at Te Hopai build programmes using the skills of residents and their valuable community connections.

Navigating Anxiety in Learning and Life: what you practise grows stronger – Jacqui Tisch

Jacqui discovered her passion for teaching while teaching children to swim.  More recently she has tutored youth and adults in a variety of literacy, communication and life skills settings including a recreation-based life skills programme for young people who found school life challenging (Activ8 Auckland).

For the past 20 years Jacqui has worked for Literacy Waitakere across a variety of workplace and community programmes. Her life-long love of new ideas and new skills led her to design and deliver a well-being programme where participants learn about the neurobiology of what’s going on in the nervous system when we are stressed and reacting to a stressful situation. In her workshop Jacqui will provide an overview of this programme and demonstrate how through exploration and practice, participants can navigate their way back to a sense of feeling safe and connected with all the associated benefits of experiencing life from this place. 

Workshop 2: Thursday 16 June, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm

Communicating through Puppetry - Ali & Nikau Cowley  (Limit of 10 participants)

Ali Cowley is an artist, animator and film maker. He is of Samoan heritage and his parents are originally from the Island of Upolo. Ali has over twenty years experience of video making, animation and short film. He was an animation director on prime time animated show Bro’Town for four seasons and is currently working as an art tutor at Media Design School in the Gaming Department.

Nikau is a highly creative nineteen year old with a passion for drawing, animation and puppetry.

In 2019 his Dad created a documentary called Meet Munch Jr to celebrate his relationship with Nikau and dispel many of the myths which exist around Autism. The short film documents Nikau’s creative journey through puppetry.

Ali and his wife Donna are members of Pasifika Autism Group Support which provides advocacy and resources for families. The group promotes conversations around diversity, inclusion and bright futures for everyone.

In their workshop Ali and Nikau will share their journey through animation and puppetry and provide a hands-on experience for participants.

Changing Brains – Arrowsmith 101- Pip Block

Pip arrived in New Zealand in 2002 after teaching in UK for 10 years where she was Dean and Head of two departments. Upon arrival in Auckland, she taught at Glendowie College and then spent five years as a Life Education Trust Educator in Central Auckland.

Pip began teaching at Saint Kentigern Boys’ School in 2010 and established the Arrowsmith Programme for neurodiverse students based on neuroplasticity. The programme was a huge success and after five years in the role and with support from colleagues, Pip founded her own school, A1 Student School in Auckland with nine full time students, nine part time students and one additional staff member. Today A1 Student School has grown to 23 full-time students and 30 part-time students aged 7 to 60, with eight staff in Auckland and Christchurch.

In her workshop, Pip will provide an outline of the science behind Barbara Arrowsmith’s programme which has been running for forty years with amazing results. Participants will get to experience some of the exercises which work to strengthen students’ brains allowing them to get the most out of their learning.

The Our Kind of School Report – What it Reveals about Inclusion- Peter Foaese

Peter-Clinton Foaese works for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner as a community and young person’s engagement specialist and has an impressive track record of youth and community development work. He is well known to the ACE sector having run ACE professional development workshops on civics education and presented at many conferences. He has represented Aotearoa at a number of international forums and is currently an executive member of the Asia South Pacific Association for Basic and Adult Education.

Peter founded the Chosen programme for at risk youth and established the Whakaoho (Awaken) programme that merges child, youth and adult education to enable people to have dreams, and equipping them with the tools, knowledge and support networks to achieve them. He is on a number of Community Boards.

In his workshop Peter will share the background to the recently published Our Kind of School Report, the result of a study in which four schools and one Kura Kaupapa Maori were approached and students, their families, staff, school leadership and community support people interviewd. He will consider its findings, in particular what it reveals about best practice for inclusion.  Our Kind of School | Office of the Children’s Commissioner (childrenandyoungpeople.org.nz)

Brain Badge – Encouraging neurodiversity in the workplace - Rich Rowley and Kate Bruce

With an Honours Degree in Speech and Drama and a Postgraduate Certificate in Human Potential for the Digital Economy, Kate Bruces expertise lies in storytelling and the use of meaningful narratives to increase connection and engagement. Using her experience of high functioning and performing teams in the arts, and witnessing the impact it has, she is committed to offering business and education a similar model: one where the system and all humans benefit, thrive, achieve and participate; and are better off for having done so.
 
Rich Rowley is at heart an educator and innovation coach; he also holds a degree in Law and a Masters in Computer Science. Rich is brilliantly neurodiverse and has spent his adult life trying to find the meaning, context and, most importantly, the value of his neurodiversity in a world where who he is framed as a deficit, dysfunctional and disabled. He has fused his educational, academic and innovative skills to focus on releasing the untapped potential of neurodiversity and the vital part it plays in cognitive diversity and in the evolution of business and education. 

His corporate innovation and human-centred design facilitation is unorthodox, honest, emotional and unfailingly one of the highlights of any organisation’s professional development.

 In their workshop, Rich and Kate will talk about Brain Badge, their initiative which is breaking down barriers to participation for the neurodiverse.

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